Abbotsford DWS Denounces Banman’s Homeless Task Force

Release. The Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) announced today it believes that Mayor Banman’s Task Force on Homelessness is a sham and an insult to DWS members and the homeless community in Abbotsford.

Cover photo: DWS founder Barry Shantz

Founder of the Abbotsford DWS Chapter, Barry Shantz says, “These people are being offensive to the homeless community in Abbotsford. The same group of people who have created the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis and who gave us the Chicken Manure Incident have spent months doing absolutely nothing for the homeless community. The sum total of their months of deliberation has been to decide we need a $100,000-a-year homeless coordinator and a $20,000 propaganda video. On top of that, while the number of homeless in desperate circumstances continues to grow in this city, the Task Force thinks we should sink another $20,000 into a study by those who created this mess.”

“It is high time someone cry ‘Bullshit’ on these people. Abbotsford citizens are dying on your streets and all the Task Force can do is put money aside until next year to pay someone to look at the issue to figure out what the problem is and make a video about it?”

“I don’t know how much the citizens, the taxpayers and voters of Abbotsford are prepared to put up with, these people are unbelievable,” says Shantz.

Shantz has been in discussions with Ann Livingston of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), DJ Larkin of Pivot Legal Society, Dr. Thomas Kerr of BC Excellence in HIV, UBC Professor and co-director of the Urban Health Research Initiative Dr. Evan Wood, to perform a world class, independent study, which establishes factually and scientifically, once and for all, the real state of homelessness in Abbotsford; the needs of the marginalized and help arrive at solutions to the problem.

“We are hoping to involve UFV through Dr Darryl Plecas’ office in order to ensure maximum local academic involvement.” says Shantz.

“We’ve discussed our plan for a world class Abbotsford Homeless Study with the Abbotsford Dignitarian Society (ADS) but they have other priorities, says Shantz.

“We want to find out how such a grotesque humanitarian crisis was allowed to happen; who let it happen; what the role of individuals and organizations like the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) were in creating it and supporting it, and how the City’s War on the Homeless can be stopped.”

Shantz says that only a world-class, academic study of what has gone wrong in Abbotsford, which lays out a clear path towards a resolution of the conflict and solutions that will save lives can possibly lead the community of Abbotsford out of the mess it has created.

“The people who caused this to happen cannot be trusted to come up with a solution,” he says.

Last week, when Abbotsford was engaged in its latest version of the Abbotsford Shuffle, evacuating the homeless who were congregated, once again, at the Happy Tree across from the Salvation Army, the Homeless Task Force was meeting at the other end of town to decide on its final report without having met with a single homeless person or being aware that they were meeting on the very day the homeless at the Happy Tree were being forced out of their camp in a mass exodus.

That mass exodus showed the homeless, for the first time, the barbed wire fences, the No Trespassing signs, the piles of gravel and concrete piping which were laid out in a pattern to force them so far away from the Salvation Army that they were forced to go back to hiding in the woods the way they used to.

“This was a travesty. The City’s most desperate, frightened and marginalized people were forced to march past all of the signs erected by the City saying, ‘We don’t want your kind’, under threat of arrest. That this can happen … and happen repeatedly, is such a mark of shame on this community it is hard to believe it is still being allowed to occur,” says Shantz.

Shantz says that the DWS has asked on several occasions for the ADS, which was provided with $10,000 by the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) on a motion from former president Bob Bos, to provide funding for such a study but has been ignored or rebuffed.

“Paul MacLeod [ADS Chair] set up an ‘Immediate Needs Committee’ four months ago to address the day to day needs of the homeless in Abbotsford. So far, other than the private donations of two portal-potties for which we are thankful, not a dime of ADBA money has been spent on the homeless or their immediate needs,” says Shantz.

“While we support the ADS’s initiative to build a Dignity Village style housing project at Valley Road, we need to find partners who can help us conduct a properly funded academic study on the Abbotsford homeless crisis,” he added.

“These people have human rights and all we have seen since we first occupied Jubilee Park on October 20, 2013 is the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, police costs and municipal time and money to get rid of them,” he adds.

“Why they insist on spending taxpayers’ money in a War on the Homeless instead of spending a dime on helping the homeless is beyond us. But we’ve had enough.”

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